The Albuquerque Journal announced that the Pecos Benedictine Monastery was having an open house. I attended and discovered a quiet place to visit. It has about a dozen monks and numerous volunteers. They support themselves by holding retreats and by allowing private retreats. Look at their web page; pecosmonastery.org. Trappist monks bought the place in 1947. It has been transferred to several religious orders since then ending up as the Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey today.
The Abbey is about 20 miles from Santa Fe, NM in the small town of Pecos. The Catholic Church in Pecos dates back to 1862. This is rural Northern, New Mexico, midway between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM.
There are numerous guest rooms, several chapels, a library and of course friendly monks. There is a common room with wi-fi and they have the necessary equipment for retreats.
The bedrooms are simple, but fancier than what I imagined a monk’s cell to be like; having seen a few in Europe. They have private baths, a desk and a closet. No phones, no TV’s; just the simple basics. This is a monastic place.
The Abbey has 1000 acres; of which about 4o can be planted and used for buildings. That leaves about 960 acres along the Pecos River for contemplation.
We did not stay overnight; however, if you want to and if you take the AARP discount, it is $67.50 per night and that includes three meals and all the quiet you want. There are common areas with WiFi and each room has a desk. It will be a great place to get caught up on a blog.
It is not for everyone; however, if you are the geezer’s age, overwhelmed by this electronic society, and looking for a new social setting, there is something relaxing about the place.
I couldn’t help but compare it to long-term care facilities that I have visited; and, at some future point, if they would have me, I would much prefer to live at the Abbey, rather than an in-town assisted living facility. There is plenty to do and it might give some purpose and meaning to the end of life.
Anyway, you might want to try it; or any monastery. Most take guests, even in Europe, and they are all over, need the money and certainly need volunteers.
An old book that I like is: A Guide to Monastic Guest Houses, 2nd Edition by Robert J. Regalbuto which is available on Amazon.
And, if you are really interested, some of the Refugios that I stayed in when I walked the Camino de Santiago are in monasteries.
I am 77. I need clothing that I can wear everyday and everywhere, that is cheap, that is always acceptable and that can be washed. I do not want to check it when flying. I want to hoist it into an overhead bin by myself. I don’t want to worry about theft.
I have chosen black walking shoes, sandals, 2 pairs of jeans, 2 turtle-necks, 2 shirts, 7 socks, underpants t-shirts and handkerchiefs. I have one blazer and one hooded rain jacket. All, except for the blazer can be washed together, in one load. Everything is black. There is room for miscellaneous items.
It all fits on me and in the 14″x18″x12″ bag in the picture. I can go on an archeological dig, eat at a four-star restaurant, attend a wedding or a funeral, attend a concert and live out the rest of my life in a long-care facility with nothing more than what is on me and in the bag.
It is cheap, universal and requires no thought. It is easily replaced. It gives me a unique, but acceptable, appearance, and not an offensive one.
In this day and age there is too much information; and too much of it is false. I am buffeted by ads, politics, etc. At 77, I decided to take a look at what I really needed to know. There are 10 things, not perfect, but that will at least make my present life better and protect me from the stress of old age.
You are going to die anyway, so why worry about that. Figure out how to make today as comfortable and as interesting as possible.
Here is my list:
- Walk – Almost anyone can do this and it keeps you fit physically, mentally and socially.
- “Eat food, mostly vegetables, not too much.” Michael Pollan
- Wine with friends. Not too much.
- Index your investments. Unless you are too smart to be reading this blog, you can’t beat the market, so go with Index Funds, which beat most investment advisors and most funds. Set them to pay out the IRS Required Minimum Distribution each year on your birthday.
- Have a mentor. Mentors, or advisors, younger than you, are more important in old age than when you are young. You need someone to keep an eye on you. Think scams, illness, long-term care, etc.
- Socialize – if nothing else, sit out on your front porch and wave at people going by. Become a fixture. Most of us can at least get to the front porch; and, there are free shuttles to take you to church, clubs and the senior centers.
- Simplify – Life is way to complex for an old person. Reduce everything to its simplest form.
- Follow the money – In any situation, where is the money going. Check charities, investments, etc. Most things you don’t need and most investments are too good to be true. Old people are a target of scammers.
- Weights and exercise bands. – Do a bit while you are watching TV, etc. You need to be fit and you need muscles.
- Simple default protective devises. You should automatically grab for the grab bar when you get out of the shower; the rail on the stairs; your glasses when you drive. Default solutions can protect you. Some need to be learned like the new devices on cars; but, maybe you should not be driving anyway.
You may need to earn a bit of extra money; simply support yourself, or just want a cheap new experience. Consider one, or all, of the following; some interesting, some practical, some simply offering a minimalist life style. You need to be creative if you are going to find a place with board and room, little stress, not too difficult and available.
The most important think is that you are challenging yourself.
You can locate these alternative living situations, by googling them and including the place you want to live.
1. Nursing Home/Assisted Living. These require round-the-clock care and in the smaller ones you can even sleep. Work a deal for room and board in exchange for the night shift. You might even get a small salary. Check state statutes and contact a few places.
2. Animal shelter – These require people to feed and care for animals. Pick one with a room for night caretakers.
3. Monastery – A lot of monasteries and nunneries have extra space and older priests and nuns. Trade caregiving, or some other skill, for room and board.
4. Security guard – A lot of places need someone on duty overnight. Might be some danger, but usually you are locked in, have a telephone or alarm, and might have to do a few rounds. Ideally you can live on the premises. A lot of school systems will allow you to park your RV or trailer on school grounds to provide a round-the-clock presence.
5. Camp ground – All camp grounds need help; especially in the summer. If you have your own trailer or RV, you can find work in private camp grounds or in the National Parks. A great opportunity for the summer is to manage a Refugio or pilgrim hostel on the Camino de Santiago. The American Pilgrims on the Camino offer training as a hospitalero in how to manage a Refugio. You can find out if you like this by walking the 500 mile Camino de Santiago.
7. House sitter – People with expensive or remote homes frequently need house-sitters; especially those with pets. If you are a minimalist and don’t mind moving to different places, this is a way to travel and to live for free. Take a look at housesitter.com.
8. Off-season manager – A seasonable tourist area requires someone to look after things off-season. Google “off-season manager.”
9. Companion – a lot of old people need a “companion.” They have large homes that they don’t want to leave. You can swap care, driving, shopping, cooking, etc. in exchange for board and room plus a small salary which will make your Social Security go a lot further. Google “senior companion care jobs near me.”
10. Cruise ship staff. If you have a skill that you can teach or if you are an older man who can dance, it is possible to get a job on a cruise ship. Think cooking class, investment advice, dancing, pottery, genealogy, computer skills, etc.
Health care must be automated. The geezer is no longer able to remember what to do as far as health care is concerned. He must rely on systems that automatically make sure that he gets the care that he needs. In addition, he needs a mentor to have a health care power of attorney so that there is a third-party checking up on the geezer.
The following can be scheduled or fixed so that little or no thought is required.
- Dental appointments – Every six months.
- Primary care/physicals at least annually
- Flu shots – annual
- Social groups – at least weekly
- Day care – as required – transportation will be needed
- PACE – Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly is a Medicare and Medicaid program available to Medicare recipients where available that includes everything you need from Adult Day Care, nursing home care, drugs, to hospitalization. In Albuquerque it is available and should be checked.
- Pill box – As many pills as old people seem to take, some organization is necessary. The geezer can’t deal with a bunch of bottles. I need the pills to be sorted by day, so that if I can figure out what day it is, I can find the right pill; maybe!
- Telephone speed dial – cellular – I can’t remember phone numbers; so I put the few I need on speed-dial.
- Life Alert – I will fall. I need someway to call for help if I can’t get up. However, I find that most people forget to wear them when needed the most; like, in the shower, or getting the morning paper in the snow.
- Identity bracelet – weld shut – use super glue to lock it on the wrist. Old people have a special ability to remove bracelets, much like criminals in monitored release programs.
- Door alarms – if a spouse/partner has dementia, you want an alarm/lock on the door to alert you when they leave or to keep them from leaving. The escaping spouse always leaves when you are in the bathroom.
- Neighbors – The best protection comes from neighbors who keep an eye on you.
- Urgent care centers – A better source for minor problems and triage, than waiting for hours in an emergency room.
- Refrigerator Instructions – Tape your meds list, doctor’s name, “Do Not Resuscitate notice,” people to notify list and other information for Emergency Responders. The refrigerator is where they look.
- Canary Home Security System – This is a cheap camera that you can put in your home so that your mentor/kid can check on you with his/her cell phone. It also beeps if something unusual occurs. The videos are kept for 24 hours so that you can monitor them. Just remember that this is a privacy invasion and no one wants to look at a nude 76-year-old.
Restaurant Impossible is one of my favorite TV shows, so of course it got me thinking. Why couldn’t Robert, or someone like him, come in and redo me?
Like the restaurants on the show, I am a mess after 75 years. I am out of shape. My finances are a mess. I don’t even know what all the pills I take are for.
I am in need of redoing! I need to be rehabbed. So, I wrote to Geezer Impossible and offered myself!
I am out of date; although a plus is that I have donated all my stained, checkered pants with zippers that don’t work to Good Will. I now wear relaxed fit jeans. Not much of an improvement, but a start. Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ), I am not, yet….. And, the fifty’s may come back.
I need a team to come in clean me up, shape me up, revise my life style, perhaps come up with a new style or at least a theme. Make me a modern “old man.” Are there “theme” old people?
Robert could meet with my family, friends, advisors, etc.; find out what they were doing for me, put them on notice that they need to shape up, then go to work on me.
He could have a group of experts; perhaps a doctor, a financial planner, a lawyer, a geriatric shrink and of course a dietician.
The result would be a new old man; with a modern theme. Instead of walking me through the door of a restaurant, Robert could walk my family through the door of my new living space and show me off. They could all marvel at how old people could be rejuvenated.
It might be necessary to do a series of old people makeovers to determine if this was a viable process. Data is important; and, of course we would need follow-up. How long could I endure my new theme.
The redo might be franchised. Old People Impossible, make overs for those over 75. Maybe even a TV show, preferably in the late afternoon, with wine.
After writing this, I woke up!
TIME FOR THE GEEZER’S SHOT!
I have been reading a lot about robots and old people lately. We have a surplus of old people and a shortage of caregivers. Is a robot caregiver the answer? At 75 future care is a constant thought; for me and for my friends. I thought about a robot in my future over coffee on Tuesday morning. Like most of my thoughts, these are irreverent.
- A robot changing my diapers. Picture me, lying on a bed, naked from the waist down, with a robot, wiping me and putting on a new diaper. How would a robot hold me in place? It’s bad enough changing a baby, imagine a robot changing me! And, don’t forget the security camera that the robot is required to wear is going all the time.
- Could the robot identify strangers who came into my home? Then what?
- Could a robot prevent falls?
- A robot could probably take my vital signs; a smart phone can do that now with a little help.
- Can a robot cook? Thaw and heat a meals-on-wheels selection? Probably.
- Clean? I hope so.
- How will a robot react with other people around?
- Will a robot like my dog? Will my dog like the robot?
- How much would it cost to make my home robot friendly? Could I find a place where the robot couldn’t find me? If so, it would probably dial 911.
- Could I short-circuit a robot? Probably it would dial 911 if I did.
- What are the ongoing maintenance and repair costs of a robot?
- What are the costs of monitoring the robot and maintaining a call center to deal with calls from the robot?
- Would a robot scare me? Think of Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey – before the time of most current robot designers.
- Could a robot bathe/shower me without drowning me or short-circuiting the robot?
- Heavy lifting would be plus. A robot could save a lot in workman’s comp. claims or the necessity of hiring two caregivers for someone of my weight.
- Theft. Identify a stranger? If the robot was stolen, we could probably locate it using our i-phone.
- Could the robot take the place of my geriatric psychologist; listen to me, counsel me?
- Could the robot provide comfort to me when I slip into Alzheimer’s? Or would I have to have two robots?
- Paying bills? Is my robot trustworthy?
- The robot could probably sign in to Skype and give my kids several views of what I was doing at any given time. It could also provide a security video that was not erased for thirty days and which my kids and my doctor could access along with a running record of my vital signs, urinalysis results, weight, diaper changing, etc.
- The robot would be perfect for the new driverless cars.
- The robot could dial UBER.
- The robot could get together with SIRI and order anything I needed.
- The robot could exercise me; whether I wanted it or not. Picture a robot designed to exercise me; and, me, not wanting to exercise.
- The robot could be programmed for Robot Assisted Suicide; however, this might violate the First Law of Robotics.
- The robot might have a copy of my advance directive and not consult with me.
- The robot could file my taxes.
- If I have Alzheimer’s; can the robot deal with that? The robot is very logical; I would just be street-smart.
- How would the robot deal with my girl friend? Could I program it to stay out of the bedroom?
- If I needed surgery, could the robot do it?
The above are just the thoughts of an old man who might be a perfect candidate for a robot caregiver. Most people don’t realize that they are old until suddenly they reach the “tipping point” at which time, they are there.
At least, I have a number of ideas for future blogs. So, stay tuned.
Maybe I should just go with a therapeutic robot from Parorobots.com to pet:
I read a lot about elder health. I get a lot of ads and a lot of advice. When I put it all together, I come up with about ten things that I should, and can, do. These are almost universally accepted, free and as near as I can tell, will do you no harm and probably a lot of good.
The amount of each of these that you do is up to you. Even a little bit helps. You can add to the list, but then it becomes cluttered.
How and when you do them is up to you.
The whole idea is not to live longer, but to live better.
- Drink water
- Drink wine, not too much
- Have friends; be a friend
- Think outside the box
- Avoid processed foods
- No clutter
And watch as I attempt to reduce old age to a series of 3 x 5 cards.
Approximately 60 years ago, I worked at a McDonald’s in Wichita, Kansas. I worked the evening shift after a day of spot-welding, making french-fries to pay for college. It was a summer job and taught me a lot.
At 75, I find McDonalds useful to me again. In the morning, both in Albuquerque, NM and on the road when I travel, it provides me with a “Senior Coffee” for 47 cents and an Egg McMuffin; frequently two for the price of one, if you participate in their survey, and get a validation Code. Thus breakfast for two this morning, with good coffee and fresh-fried eggs, came to $4.17 plus .29 tax for a total of $4.46; and, no tip.
Getting the validation code only takes a few minutes on your computer and at my age the hand-eye coordination is useful. The survey site marks a sample Promo receipt so it is easy to know how to fill in the survey.
I like the clean restrooms, the free Wi-Fi, and the staff; a bit older than when I was running the french fry machine in the late fifty’s. It makes a clean, safe, stop where I can check my e-mail, have a coffee and use the restrooms.
Groups of seniors seem to gather in the early morning at many local McDonald’s; and, on the road at the highway McDonalds. Most are great, one or two, I wouldn’t go back to, but for us McDonald’s has become a senior ritual not to mention a social gathering place.
Small communities are show cases for history, genealogy and crafts. Huntington, NY is no exception. On a recent visit, I attended a “Sheep to Shawl Festival” in Huntington offered by the Huntington Historical Society. This was on a Sunday afternoon in May and held at one of the Society’s properties, the 1795 Dr Daniel W Kissam House. Dr. Kissam had a stroke; so, he had the room next to his examining room converted into a bedroom and apparently continued to treat patients as he was able. This was around 1800.
The volunteers are full of stories about their ancestors; and, of course, they dress the part.
There was a free tour of the house, barn and other outbuildings. The Society had tables for crafts; staffed by a large number of talented quilters and artists who made things as they did 200 years ago. It was fascinating; especially when you consider that old people are fascinated with their past and with the things people made on their own.
There was a sewing machine that a young boy made; simple and pedal operated but it still worked. There was a lady shearing sheep; people weaving; and, a man who was into wood carving making small, simple whistles.
The society has numerous events over the year and several properties that you can visit. It also sponsors a genealogy workshop that includes and annual trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
The point is that I spent an interesting and educational Sunday afternoon.
I learned how simply people lived two hundred years ago and met people who were recreating history. There was even a revolutionary war contingent that had set up camp across the street; cooking in a dutch oven and firing their muskets, much to the delight of children.
You can find these Exhibits and programs in towns all across the US; and, they are worthy of a visit. They are local and done with a passion that you don’t find elsewhere.
You could travel across the US on your own mobile American History Course; and, with a little work, could make it reflect your ancestors and their place in American History. You can even start at Ellis Island.